Underage Drinking & the Law

What parents need to know now about the new Social Host Laws

Alcohol use among teens maintained historic lows in 2012, continuing a long-term gradual decline.

Drinking by minors has dropped dramatically

The movement to add new stricter underage drinking laws, like Social Host Laws (SHLs), to the legislative mix is based on the assertion that we still have a long way to go to prevent kids from drinking. Yet, across the board, major government, university and national statistics show that alcohol use among middle and high school students has declined steadily over the past three decades, and continues to decline annually. The latest annual survey, released yesterday by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, supports the results found by all the other major research institutions:

Over the past twenty years, alcohol use by 8th, 10th and 12th graders has dropped and has continued to drop by impressive amounts.

The 2012 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey is conducted annually by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research since its inception in 1975 and is supported under a series of investigator-initiated, competing research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The MTF studies don’t differentiate between social drinking, religious uses and alcohol education by parents at the dinner table.

Today’s middle and high-school students are significantly better behaved than their predecessors when it comes to drinking alcohol. When asked if they’ve had a drink in the past 30 days (a drink is defined as more than two or three sips on any occasion, including religious), the majority say, “No”, even the high-school seniors. 2012 also saw the smallest number of 8th graders trying alcohol in the past month. While past month use by sophomores and seniors has grown a small amount between 2011 and 2012,  the 2012 rates are still the second and third lowest use of alcohol by those students over the 37 years the study has been conducted. For the past twenty years, we’ve seen the 30-day measure fall by 19.1 percent among seniors, 30.8 percent among sophomores and a whopping 57.9 percent among eighth-graders.

The longer the period of time measured, the higher rates we expect to see, especially when studying lifetime use. Few of us are stunned when the answer to the question, “Have you ever had a drink?” is “Yes.” Yet, when measuring drinking rates in the past year and ever (lifetime use), we see more good news. Once again, the 2012 study results demonstrates the historically lowest percent of high school students drinking.

Click here for the facts, statistics, charts and in-depth analyses of the 2012 Monitoring the Future study, as well as the most recent data from The National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.

 

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